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I can’t NOT do it, folks.
How’s that for a double negative?
I have to start with tackling IT’S and ITS.
To begin, please accept this quote from the brilliant Lynne Truss as to how I feel on the matter:
To those who care about punctuation, a sentence such as “Thank God its Friday” (without the apostrophe) rouses feelings not only of despair but of violence. The confusion of the possessive “its” (no apostrophe) is an unequivocal sign of illiteracy and sets off a simple Pavlovian “kill” response in the average stickler. –Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, p. 43
The truth is that this simple grammar rule stumps nearly everyone in modern-day America. Why? I believe it’s because we are so used to “it’s”–apostrophe included–that when we write “its” it just looks strange. (Other possible explanation: texting has made the apostrophe obsolete. I’ve been known to send a text without a proper apostrophe, even. It pains me.)
It’s a simple rule. I promise. (Writing this is making me uber-aware of how much we use its/it’s!)
- Use IT’S (with apostrophe) only as a substitute for “it is” or “it has.” That’s it. PERIOD. If you read your sentence and you cannot replace the “it’s” with “it is” or “it has,” then you have the wrong “it’s.”
- Use ITS as a possessive, the same as you would her, his, your, etc. For example: I saw her bike. I saw your bike. I saw its bike. (In this case, anything that would own a bike probably is not an “it,” but I disgress.)
Is it complicated? I truly don’t think so. It’s simply a word we use and use and use. And like anything, once it is over thought it can become complicated.
If you’re ever puzzled, just try to replace your “its” with “it is.” If it works, it should be “it’s.” If it doesn’t, it’s “its.” (Good gracious.)
Does this make sense? Is “it’s” something you struggle with? If so, why do you think that is?
Reading Like a Writer: This week’s recommended book is March by Geraldine Brooks. In my opinion, Brooks is a master of the English language. Her books are amazing journeys, poetically worded and researched to perfection. Brooks’ experience as a journalist makes her the ideal storyteller of historical fiction. March is my personal favorite because it stems from Little Women–but I would also highly recommend People of the Book and Year of Wonders.